Law Professors

CLE Program Includes Roller Derby Tickets, Lesson on Rules of Game and Civil Procedure

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What can roller derby teach lawyers about civil procedure?

That question will be explored in an unusual continuing legal education program on Jan. 29 sponsored by the South Carolina Bar.

University of South Carolina law professor Joel Samuels, aka “Sonny Pro Bono,” will be teaching the class. He is also the coach of the Columbia QuadSquad Roller Derby All-Stars, a team that includes three law graduates.

Registrants for the one-hour CLE credit course will get tickets to a QuadSquad derby bout that follows the program. According to the course description, Samuels will introduce participants to the rules of roller derby and draw parallels to the rules of civil procedure.

Samuels’ online roller derby profile says his derby mantra is “head on a swivel.” He responded to questions via email. Here is an edited version of his responses:

ABA Journal: When did you start coaching a roller derby squad? How did you get involved with that?

Samuels: I started coaching a little over three years ago. Before that, I was an announcer for the team. I had been a sports announcer back in college, and it was in many ways my one unrequited (professional) love. So I jumped at the opportunity to announce when it first came up … and everything else flowed from there.

Interestingly, I do not know how to roller skate—at all. So I what I bring to the team is an understanding of the strategy of the sport and an outside perspective. Above all, I benefit from knowing the (very clear) line between what I do and do not know—so I do not end up over-coaching the skaters, who are highly skilled athletes.

ABA Journal: The CLE brochure shows three team members who are law grads. Are they all on the current team?

Samuels: They are indeed all on the current team, and one of them, Holly Hunter, is a star and one of our team leaders. Of the three, only Lisa Marie Deadly is a practicing attorney. Doli Derringer and Holly both work in other capacities at law firms. And the four of us are the only ones in our league affiliated with the legal profession. [The CLE brochure identifies Hunter as Stacey Russell-Franklin, Deadly as Lisa Good Smith, and Derringer as Elizabeth Perkins.]

ABA Journal: How did you come up with the idea for this class?

Samuels: The idea was proposed by the CLE director of the bar itself, who is a huge roller derby fan. He actually came to us!

ABA Journal: Can you give one example of how the rules of civil procedure parallel the rules of roller derby?

Samuels: One specific example would be the parallel between Rule 11 and the rules on misconduct on the track. Much as Rule 11 governs the behavior of lawyers and their clients during the course of litigation, penalties for misconduct and gross misconduct pertain to egregious unsportsmanlike conduct by players towards others in the bout.

Much as the judge is given discretion to levy a sanction that will both punish the conduct and deter future similar behavior, these rules leave the referee the power to either send players off the track for one minute as a major penalty or (in extreme cases) to expel them from the game (much as a judge has the power in extreme cases to dismiss a case or a defense as a Rule 11 sanction).

Related coverage: “Lacking Ballistics Expertise? Looking to Pack Some Heat? Admitted in SC? Here’s a CLE Course for You”

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